Sunday, June 11, 2006

Heavy Metal: I was there

Last month VH1 declared it to be Metal Month in preparation to the first annual Rock Honors Award. One of the things they had on was a four part documentary called "Heavy: The Story of Metal." It started with the pre-metal days featuring acts that were the genesis of what became known as Heavy Metal. Then moved onto the "rebirth" of Metal after it was almost crushed by Punk in Europe and Disco in the US. From there it highlights the West Coast wave of what would come to be known as "Hair Bands" finally ending with the current state of diverse artists and genres that can be classified as being under the Metal umbrella. The time line for this is from the late 60's and early 70's to today.

Watching this I was hit by a very strong feeling of nostalgia. You see, I was there at the rebirth of Metal. My family lived in Germany and we got to see and hear about bands that were hitting big there three or four years before they hit the States. Being 20 years old in 1981/1982 in Europe was an incredible thing. The feeling of energy, the power of anti-establishment and alienation yet with the feeling of belonging and brotherhood... You can't imagine it. At that time I practically lived in the local Rock Bars meeting people and even local bands who all shared the same feelings. It was a paradoxical time of disillusionment and hopefulness. The world sucked but the future, carried on the power cords of Metal, was bright and optimistic. All of these feelings came back to me as I watched the parade of artists and bands on the screen.

Zeppelin, Purple, Sabbath, Priest, Motörhead, Maiden, Van Halen, Metallica... There are to many to mention. It was all a fantastic ride that hasn't slowed down. It occasionally gets overshadowed by other trends in music; Grunge, Hip-Hop, Boy Bands, Brittany/Christina/Blahblahblah. But in the end you will find that in 20 years people will still be buying Judas Priest albums while asking, "Brittany who?"

But this feeling expands ever further than Metal. If you look at the summer concert series you'll see bands like Styx, Journey, Def Leopard, AC/DC, et. al., all packing in the concert halls. Why? Simple, they are purveyors of good music. Music that can touch the heart and soul of people from 68 to 43 to 9 (that would be my mother, me and my son). And while it's true that we all have our differences in other parts of our musical tastes (Grandma loves the Standards and my son likes Hip-Hop, two genres I am not likely to have in abundance on my iTunes playlist) we will always come together the minute those first notes of "Breakin' the Law" explode out from the speakers.

AC/DC explained it best, though, in the the last song of the "Back in Black" album, Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution -

"Rock 'n' roll ain't noise pollution
Rock 'n' roll, it'll never die
Rock 'n' roll ain't noise pollution
Rock 'n' roll
Oh, rock 'n' roll
Is just rock 'n' roll, yeah

And that's all it is.
It's just Rock 'n' Roll.
Lynyrd Skynyrd is just Rock 'n' Roll.
Heavy Metal is Rock 'n' Roll.
Rock 'n' Roll is just Rock 'n' Roll.

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